2013 / Director. Bill Condon.
In THE FIFTH ESTATE Laura Linney's character questions how history will judge Julian Assange. Even now in 2014 while he is still holed up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, her question is valid and is fundamental to Assange's platform. Some consider him a hero while others condemn him as a traitor but only time itself will reveal which he is to be... and THE FIFTH ESTATE comes along and paints him in a very poor light and it's very difficult to swallow (for me at least). Firstly it's an American film and the USA is Wikileaks' enemy #1 and while Assange is at first portrayed as a commendable champion of freedom the film gradually takes him on a downward spiral that reduces his figure to little more than a mentally retarded lunatic. I took exception with this. I am personally undecided on my opinion of Julian Assange but I know from the media and interview coverage I have seen that his is not the same personality depicted here. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Assange and he gets full props for his exceptional Australian accent. He nails it. But his whole persona is off kilter. I didn't buy this depiction one bit. Daniel Brühl, on the other hand, is brilliant. Of course I am not familiar with the real life character of Daniel Schmitt and so my praise is purely from his on-screen resonance. I also found the script very plonky... that is to say that it's scattered and simplistic. Director Bill Condon uses a continuous series of fantasy images to depict the mysterious entity of Wikileaks itself and I found these elements to be really contrived and manipulative. He also refers back to Assange's childhood experience with a dangerous cult, which seemed desperate to me. The whole cult thing as Assange's "reason" is absurd and for a better look into that chapter of his life, the Australian film UNDERGROUND is a much better examination. This film does not seem like a fair portrayal of someone as culturally and historically significant as Julian Assange and it plays out more like a collective point of view from an angry America. THE FIFTH ESTATE may as well have been produced by Fox News.